DIVINE BLINDNESS AND DEAFNESS

DIVINE BLINDNESS AND DEAFNESS
A Sermon by Rev. Grant H. Odhner
Preached in Rochester, Michigan May 17, 1992

If you were standing before someone you respected and cared for a great deal, someone who had the power to make your life either “all right” or unbearable, and that person knew that you had done something terrible, faithless, shameful, how would you feel? How would you want the person to respond?

Would you want to be absolved of all wrongdoing without any discussion? Would you want him to simply pretend that nothing had happened? That might bring an initial relief, but it would also create a discomfort, a lack of resolution, a lack of truthfulness. We would feel that that person had not acknowledged the reality of our life, and in not doing that he or she would be showing an unwillingness to know us and to know the truth. The deeper part of us longs to be known and to be valued based on our real character and merits. Otherwise it is not we who are being loved.

Of course, we would hope to be forgiven. We would hope to receive a new chance. But we would not want the trust to be restored miraculously. Again, this would bring initial relief but not healing relief. Rather, we would want the trust to be restored based on our real efforts to move beyond our transgression. In this way we would feel a deep sense of acceptance and forgiveness. It would be a real restoral of relationship.

It’s one thing to have someone overlook our faults or not make an issue of them. It’s another thing for that person to deny our faults when they have become the issue.

All this is prelude to considering an amazing quality of our Lord, a quality that is ascribed to Him in our text from Isaiah – namely, His Divine blindness and deafness: “Who is blind but My servant? Or deaf as My messenger whom I send?” (Isaiah 42:19)

In what sense is our Lord blind and deaf? The Writings of the New Church explain it this way: “[The Lord] is called ‘blind’ and ‘deaf because [He] is as if He did not see and perceive people’s sins, for He leads people gently, bending and not breaking, in this way leading away from evils and leading to what is good; therefore He does not chastise and punish, like one who sees and perceives” (AE 409:2, emphasis added).

The Lord does see and perceive our sins. He knows us thoroughly. (As the Psalmist sang: “You know my down- sitting and my uprising and are acquainted with all my ways.”) In addition, He knows that ultimately we are beings who want to know ourselves and be known accurately. And yet at any given time there are things that we cannot accept about the Lord, about ourselves, about others. There are things that we can see but do not yet really deal with. If the Lord is going to lead us further, then He must let certain things remain hidden; other things He must allow to be as they are for the sake of what is to come. And this is why, from our point of view, He can appear to be blind and deaf to evil.

This is contrary to one idea we have of the Lord. We think of the Lord as perfect, as pure, as utterly and uncompromisingly truthful. According to this idea, all that is imperfect, impure, or false stands far away from Him. If He were to draw near to evil, what would happen? Wouldn’t He rebuke it loudly? Wouldn’t He cast it far from Him? Isn’t it abominable, unclean, contrary to His holy and perfect will? Wouldn’t it be crushed, burnt up, destroyed in an instant? The Psalmist speaks this way; he sings of the Lord’s descending and all the mountains catching fire and melting like wax.

But would the Lord be this way when He came? He certainly had enormous power and used it to cut through falsity and evil, and to lay them bare. He certainly had a zeal for righting wrongs, for protecting the good from evil. Our chapter from Isaiah speaks of this quality of the Lord as well: “Yehowah shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yea, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies. I have held My peace a long time; I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor; I will pant and gasp at once. I will lay waste the mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, and I will dry up the pools” (Isaiah 42:13-15).

What zeal! And yet, if people expected the Lord to be only this way when He came, they were in for a surprise.

Consider Jesus’ stooping to the ground, drawing in the dust with His finger while crowds of people stood around. What would the Lord do? Hadn’t this wretched woman sinned – caught in the very act? Shouldn’t she be stoned? Wouldn’t Divine justice demand this? What a curious picture of the Lord this presents. It appeared, as John recorded, “as though He did not hear.”

Again, think of how the scribes and Pharisees struggled with the Lord’s acceptance of people who were not observant of the Law: He actually ate and drank with them! On one occasion a Pharisee mused to himself. “This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). Was Jesus simply ignorant? Or was He condoning her sin? “Who is blind but My servant, or deaf as My messenger whom I send? You see many things but do not observe; Your ears are open but you do not hear.”

The Lord was often “as if He did not see and perceive people’s sins” because His aim was to gently withdraw them from their false ideas and their evil habits. This could not be done if every evil and falsity were confronted and rooted out at once. We can see that the Lord’s work required great “patience and tolerance.” And this is, in fact, one of the ways our text from Isaiah is explained. We are told that it describes “the Lord’s patience and tolerance” (Prophets and Psalms).

How important were patience and tolerance in the Lord when He came! Our state was so wretched and low and His hopes for us were so high! There was so much disorder and blindness. Truth and falsity were so mixed in people’s minds. There could be no simple, quick, and bold remedy that would not jeopardize the good that was there or destroy our freedom. He couldn’t use the mere force of truth to straighten things out – not unless that truth was applied wisely and patiently with the prudence and long-sightedness of Divine love.

And so the prophets don’t just record a picture of the coming Lord as a “man of war,” entering the scene with force, but also of a person with inscrutable wisdom and restraint: “Behold, My Servant on whom I lean, My chosen One in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He will not cry out nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench. He will bring forth judgment into truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged till He has established judgment in the earth” (Isaiah 42:1-4).

“He was despised and rejected by men …. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth …” (Isaiah 53:3,7).

“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently …” (Isaiah 52:13). And this is how He deals with each one of us today. He is present with us with Divine perfection and power, yet He is Divinely patient and tolerant – to the point where He seems not to see or heed our evils.

The Lord’s “blindness” and “deafness,” when we understand them rightly, teach us how we ought to be with one another.

It’s not hard to see how they apply with children. Their faults are so apparent. Their ignorance is so great. There is so much that they must learn and experience before they can appreciate what we appreciate. And they can’t change at once. Their affections must be educated and bent gradually. Selfish affections that are harmful, such as hatred and contempt, must be chastened. But selfish affections that are not so contrary to love, such as pride in self-accomplishment and excelling more than others, must be tolerated and only gradually confronted (cf. AC 3993). For a while those qualities can serve some use.

The case is similar with children’s growing ideas. The limitations and fallacies in them need to be tolerated and not crushed. They see the Lord as capable of anger and of punishing. They think that heaven can be earned by good behavior, with little appreciation for the proper spurt in which good must be done. They think that they can do good from themselves. These ideas contain fallacies and the seeds of terrible falsities. Yet they are stepping stones to truer ideas. They must be tolerated and even fostered for the sake of the innocence that is within them and for the sake of the potential that they represent. A wise adult keeps the end in view and restrains their tendency to correct every error. They overlook when they can.

And are adults all that different from children in these respects? Don’t we need to be tolerant and forgiving of a lot of the selfishness that we see in one another – especially selfishness that’s not blatantly contrary to neighborly love? Don’t our religious concepts contain a lot of fallacies, particularly as we live them (as opposed to our “book faith’)? In fact, don’t wise people even overlook errors and perversions in others when they can? We are told that angels do (see AC 1082-1088).

If we have the end firmly in view, there are often deeper ways that we can help one another than by trying to rebuke and crush bad behavior and erroneous ideas. First, we can “mind our own house” and be a better member of society ourselves; this is a tremendous source of strength to others! (For our private lives touch others from within, spiritually, and from without, in ways that are hard to appreciate.) We can also support the good things we see in others and work to strengthen them. In doing these things we are also in a better position to help influence their ideas with our own sight of truth.

It is important to realize (returning to our sermon’s opening thoughts) that wise “blindness” and “deafness” is not a matter of ignoring all evils. We see this in our story from John. The Lord did not ignore the woman’s adultery. He did not remain silent. He looked up and saw her and spoke to her. And He didn’t just say, “Neither do I condemn you.” He said, “Go and sin no more.”

How would she have felt if He had not looked at her? If she had been forced by silence to turn and slip off like her accusers? She would not have felt known by this Man who was her Maker and Lord. She would not have felt that His forgiveness was credible or meaningful.

So with us. If we would be wise, we can’t just ignore evils in ourselves or in others. When they become clear issues, we must openly acknowledge them. We must recognize (in the case of our own transgression) or communicate (in the case of another’s) love and mercy: “Neither do I condemn you.” We must encourage ourselves or others to move on from where we are: “Go.” And rather than offering blanket acceptance, we should realize and communicate that hope and peace lie in stopping the disfunctional behavior: “Sin no more.’

What the Lord “didn’t hear” were all the accusations being thrown at the woman. He didn’t seem to hear at first their suggestion that she be stoned.

The Lord appears to be blind and deaf to evil because He doesn’t act from truth alone. From truth He sees and hears. But from love He feels and touches. Truth alone condemns – it stones to death. The Lord does not subject us to endless persecution because of our evils and mistakes; He doesn’t listen to the voices of hell which we hear at times, railing upon us, inspiring guilt and anxiety. Truth alone would keep us all in a state of such hell to eternity.

But truth from love is different: it wisely distinguishes one evil from another; it sees to the heart of things; it looks to the end in view. What appeared to the Pharisees as an outrageous flaw was in fact a sign of the Lord’s perfection. “Who is blind but My Servant, or deaf as My Messenger whom I send? Who is blind as He who is perfect and blind as Yehowah’s Servant?”

“He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:3,4).

We all stand before Him in evil and condemnation. And sometimes we stand before each other so. In struggling with our own condition and with others’, may we remember just how merciful and wise our heavenly Father is! He draws near to us, with all the force of Divine holiness, perfection, glory, yet “because of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, for His compassions fail not. They are new every morning …” (Lamentations 3:22,23). Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 42; John 8:2-1 1; AC 6472:2, 4031:4

Arcana Caelestia

6472. The Lord does not compel a human being to receive what flows in from Himself but leads in freedom, and so far as a person allows, through freedom leads to good. Thus the Lord leads a person according to his delights, and also according to fallacies and the principles received from them. But gradually He leads him out from these. And this appears to the person as though it were [done] from himself Thus the Lord does not break these things, for this would be to do violence to freedom, which however must needs exist in order that the person may be reformed.

4031. If a person does not receive good and truth in freedom, it cannot be appropriated to him or become his. For that to which anyone is compelled is not his but belongs to him who compels, because although it is done by him, he does not do it of himself. It sometimes appears as if a person were compelled to good, as in temptations and spiritual combats; but he then has a stronger freedom than at other times (as may be seen above: n. 1937, 1947, 2881). It also appears as though a person were compelled to good when he compels himself to it; but it is one thing to compel one’s self, and another to be compelled. When anyone compels himself, he does so from a freedom within; but to be compelled is not from freedom.

HEALING BLINDNESS

HEALING BLINDNESS
A Sermon by Rev Brian W. Keith
Preached in Glenview, Illinois
September 29, 1991

Blindness is a terrible affliction. Imagine not being able to see the incredible array of colors, especially when fall is drawing near. Imagine not being able to read a map or see the beauties brought to us through the lenses of cameras. And imagine not being able to see a child ride his bike or a friend smile. While a heightening of the other senses can enable someone to manage without sight, a wonderful element is thereby removed from life, and the person is surrounded with a shroud of darkness.

While natural blindness is certainly a frustrating and painful condition, it merely reflects the kind of problems where there is spiritual blindness in our lives. Spiritual blindness causes us to flail around in our lives, not really knowing or being certain of what we ought to do or what kind of person we can become.

Spiritual blindness exists wherever there is ignorance. Where someone lacks a knowledge of who the Lord really is, of the process of regeneration, and of the nature of the world the Lord intends us to live in forever, there is a terrible void in a person’s life. Yes, someone can go through life, attending to numerous responsibilities, doing his job, taking care of the home, and apparently being a healthy, useful member of society. So where there is ignorance about spiritual matters, that life is shrouded in darkness. It is without any real purpose or direction.

But worse than that are those whose religious beliefs foster blindness. Those who have been taught that matters of religion are best left to the theologians and cannot be understood by the average person are having their spiritual eyes put out. For when someone is told to accept something on faith with no real understanding, with no real appreciation of the truth, there is a darkening and claustrophobic feeling.

Spiritual blindness is not simply a problem of whether one can recite information or even feel comfortable just understanding how the world works. For being blind spiritually has significant problems even as natural blindness does in this world. As our natural sight enables us to see hazards to avoid them and shows us better paths to follow, so a spiritual sight of truth can lead us to steer around hellish situations and direct us on heavenly paths. And fortunately, where spiritual sight is lacking, our lives are often reduced to the lowest common denominator, namely what we want to do. Sometimes what we want to do is all right, but often it is not all right. In fact it may be destructive, self-centered, and painfully hurtful to those around us. If we don’t have a clear sight of the difference between right and wrong, then anything we desire to do may seem all right.

The example given from the lesson in Divine Providence is most telling in this regard. Where there is not a clear sight of marriage, of how one man and one woman can deeply love each other and receive a genuine eternal love that is different from any other from the Lord, it is so easy to justify all manner of less-than-orderly situations. Without a clear vision of marriage, adultery seems relatively unimportant, simply a friendly contact between people, not much different from shaking hands or talking in a restaurant. Casual sexual relations can easily be justified wherever there is not that clear sight of what sex can mean inside of marriage and how destructive it is outside of marriage.

A miracle the Lord did in healing the blind man points to how our blind spots can be healed, how we can see to walk in the Lord’s path.

As the Lord was in a small fishing village by the Sea of Galilee named Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Him wanting the Lord to heal him. It is noteworthy that the blind man did not call out to the Lord nor perceive Him by Himself. For one of the traits of spiritual blindness is the lack of recognition that one needs any help. Often we don’t know where our blind spots are. We think we see things so clearly that our way is the right way, that all others are wrong. It’s only when others bring us to the Lord, pointing out an imperfection that we have, challenging a tradition, that we have the possibility of being healed.

Obviously the people who brought the man assumed that the Lord could heal him; they could not. Our blindness is never really healed by other people. Yes, we listen to them, have them criticize our ideas or suggest different ways for us to live. But their talking means little or nothing to us unless we sense something of the Divine there. Even as that blind man did not resist their taking him to the Lord, so our blindness can begin to be cured when we allow others to lead us to where the Lord is in our lives.

Interestingly, unlike many other miracles done immediately, the Lord took the man by the hand and led him out of town. Naturally there’s no good reason for this to occur because the Lord could heal anywhere He wanted. But spiritually the town Bethsaida describes the state of hell in which we may be living. When we are actually doing what’s wrong, living in a disorderly way, the Lord can’t heal us. It’s only when we step out of the problem and move away from the situation that we are willing and able to have our eyes opened to what the problem really is. If we are locked into one way of looking at things or one method of behavior, our eyes cannot be opened.

Then the Lord spit in the man’s eyes. While we would consider this a rather unclean approach, the fluid from the Lord’s mouth was symbolic of the truth that He wants us to see. What’s more, it affects us when it hits us in the eyes. When we realize that the Lord is telling us not to embellish our stories, in effect lying to make ourselves look better, then we see what the Lord is telling us.

The Lord also put His hands on the man. And what this means is a communication of everything of one’s life. For the message is that our spiritual eyes are not opened to what is good and evil simply by the facts being told to us. Rather it’s when we sense that this is the Lord’s message for us to help us not to condemn, not to harm but when we sense the Lord’s love and mercy there, then our eyes are opened.

It’s interesting that the Lord posed a question to the man, asking him if he saw anything. Now the Lord was not so unaware as to what the effect would be that He was seeking information from the man for His own sake to see if the miracle worked or not! The purpose of His question here, as with all His questions, is to encourage us to respond. Yes, the Lord does know everything about us, but He wants us to understand by thinking and by speaking. It has been said that no one truly knows anything until he is able to explain it to a child. The process of struggling to grasp an idea so that it can be communicated to someone else anchors it in our minds in a way not possible otherwise. This is why the Lord asked the question, not because He needed to know but so that the man could analyze what was happening to him. What this means for us is that as we are taking in information from the Lord’s Word, it will tend to be pushed to the most remote parts of our memory unless we are engaged in talking about it with other people. Perhaps we are wondering about how the Lord’s providence works, say when there’s an unexpected death or an apparently amazing bit of good fortune. We can wonder about the subject, read about it, and really feel as if we have gained a new insight. But if we don’t share that with others by trying to express it to them, it will tend to drift off and be forgotten. And we should not assume that we are just imposing our ideas on others, be they within our small circle of friends or even outside of the church. Because if someone is a friend, he or she is interested not just in spending time with us but in hearing what we think. To communicate ideas is not to impose but to share.

The man whose sight was being returned then responded that he saw men “like trees walking.” The reason his sight was not clear at first is that our initial grasp of any subject is rather stiff and unfocused men like trees. For we can’t come to all the answers right away. To gain deep insights into providence, into the process of regeneration, does not occur immediately. For wisdom is not synonymous with our first instruction. Yes, we sense the presence of the Divine and we are excited by the light that we see there. This is the light of the trees walking. But our sight is obscure and we shouldn’t be upset when our initial thoughts of a subject or our initial understanding of a subject is flawed.

The Lord did not leave the man in that quasi-seeing state. He put His hands on the man’s eyes again and had him look up, at which point he was restored and saw everyone clearly. The Lord’s putting His hands on the man a second time describes a kind of illustration, enlightenment, that comes after we have digested ideas and worked with them for a while. What this means is that we can’t assume our knowledge on any subject is adequate or that it is sufficiently organized in our minds to see clearly. Our blindness, at least a haziness, remains until the Lord is able to place His hands upon us again. For this to happen we need continual contact with the Divine. The man who saw men like trees walking could have left it at that point. He could have been satisfied with a partial restoration. But he stayed. The Lord wants us to stay too. He wants us to continue the process of learning, of thinking, and of gradually understanding so that our first sight is not our last.

The sight that the man regained can be ours when we have a depth of understanding of what is true, not simply a knowledge of the facts, not a rudimentary understanding of them, but a clear sight of what they mean. So when we think about the teachings revealed in the New Church about a life after death, they are not simply ideas that are interesting or attractive, but they are an expression of the Lord’s love and mercy and a description of what can be ours. They come alive when we sense their power and the fact that they are not abstractly applied to someone else, but they are intended to depict for us what the Lord would give us.

Or when we think about the ideas concerning use, our ability to affect others for the better, they can at first be very general unfocused ideas that we ought to have a job and do something productive with our life, an idea which is men like trees walking. But when we sense the Lord’s presence in what we do for other people, even in the mundane tasks that don’t seem to be well rewarded here, then we see clearly and are able to see light that really is the Lord’s presence with us.

Blindness exists with everyone. And the Lord constantly works to heal that blindness. If we will allow ourselves to be brought into the Lord’s presence by the questions or encouragement of our friends and loved ones, and if we will then allow the fluid truth from the Lord’s Word to touch our unseeing eyes, it will allow Him to touch our hearts so that we may know that He is our God. Then we may begin to see. At first it will not be clear or perfect; many will be the times we will see men like trees walking. But if we allow the Lord to remain with us, if we retain our contact with Him in the Word and in worship, then He can continue to touch us, healing all our blindness, giving us a sight of all things living.

This is the Lord’s will for us, that from being blind we might see, that from being trapped by falsities and distorted ideas we might have a true picture of what heaven is like, both after death and in our life now. Amen.

Lessons: Mark 8:22-30; DP 144

Divine Providence 144

Neither can anyone be reformed in a state of blindness of the understanding. These also have no knowledge of truths, and consequently of life; for the understanding must teach truths and the will must do them; and when the will does what the understanding teaches, its life is fashioned according to truths. But when the understanding is blinded, the will is also closed up, and from freedom according to its reason it does only the evil that is confirmed in the understanding, which is falsity. Moreover, the understanding is blinded not only by ignorance but also by religion that teaches blind faith, and also by false doctrine. For as truths open the understanding, so falsities close it; they close it from above but open it from below, and the understanding, open only below, cannot see truths but can merely confirm whatever it wills, especially falsity. The understanding is also blinded by the lusts of evil. As long as the will is in these it moves the understanding to confirm them; and so far as the lusts of evil are confirmed, it is impossible for the will to be in the affections of good and to see truths from them, and thus to be reformed.

For example, when one is in the lust of adultery his will, which is in the delight of his love, moves his understanding to confirm it, saying, “What is adultery? Is there anything wicked in it? Is there not the same thing between husband and wife? Cannot children be born from adultery just as from marriage? Cannot a woman admit more than one without harm? What has the spiritual to do with this?” So thinks the understanding which is then the courtesan of the will, and so stupid has it become from debauchery with the will that it cannot see that marriage love is spiritual, heavenly love itself, an image of the love of the Lord and of the church from which it is derived, and thus that it is in itself holy, that it is chastity itself, purity and innocence; and that it makes men to be forms of love, since consorts can love each other mutually from inmost things and thus form themselves into loves; and that adultery destroys this form and with it the image of the Lord; and what is horrible, that the adulterer mingles his life with the husband’s life in his wife, for a man’s life is in the seed.

As this is profane, therefore hell is called adultery, and heaven on the other hand is called marriage. Moreover, the love of adultery communicates with the lowest hell but true marriage love communicates with the inmost heaven; and the organs of generation in both sexes also correspond to societies of the inmost heaven. These things have been recorded that it may be known how blinded the understanding is when the will is in the lust of evil; and that no one can be reformed in a state of blindness of the understanding.

GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND

GIVING SIGHT TO THE BLIND
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, April 28, 1991

“Then they reviled him, and said: `You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes'” (John 9:28-30).

Walking along with His disciples on the Sabbath day, the Lord noticed a man who had been blind from birth. The disciples asked the Lord whose fault it was that he was blind the man’s or his parents’. The Lord replied that it was neither. He then announced that He must do the works which He was sent to do, and proclaimed Himself the `light of the world.’ “When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay, and He said to him: `Go wash in the pool of Siloam’ … So He went and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:6,7).

When the neighbors and acquaintances of the man saw him, they questioned whether it was indeed the same man, for a miracle such as this was unknown at that time. But the man did not leave them in any doubt. He told them that he was the one who had been born blind. They then wanted to know how he had received sight. He told them how a Man named Jesus had made clay with His saliva, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

They then brought the man to the Pharisees, and he was again questioned concerning this amazing miracle. Upon hearing his recital of what had taken place, the Pharisees concluded that the Man who did the miracle must be a sinner since He had done it on the Sabbath day. They therefore asked the man, “`What do you say about Him because he opened your eyes?’ He said, `He is a prophet'” (John 9:17).

But the Pharisees doubted whether he had indeed been born blind. They therefore called the parents of the man and began to interrogate them. The parents claimed him as their son and affirmed that he had been blind from birth; but, knowing the hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus, they refused to say how he had been cured, saying that he was of age and could answer for himself. The Jews therefore called the man again, telling him that Jesus was a sinner, and that he should give the praise to God. They then began to question him again, pressing him to make some statement of which they could accuse him. When he asked them whether they also wanted to become Jesus’ disciples, they reviled him, saying that they were Moses’ disciples, for they knew that Moses spoke with God but they did not know where Jesus was from.

Then “the man answered and said to them, `Why, this is a marvelous thing that you do not know where He is from, and yet He has opened my eyes … Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing'” (John 9:30,32,33).

Then the Pharisees, in anger, expelled him from the synagogue saying, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (John 9:34) When the Lord heard that the man had been expelled, He came to him and asked him if he believed in the “Son of God.” The man inquired who He was, expressing a desire to believe in Him. Then the Lord told him that it was He who was speaking to him. Upon hearing this the man declared his belief in the Lord and fell down and worshipped Him. The Lord then declared that He had come into the world to give sight to the blind, and make blind those who could see. The Pharisees then inquired whether they were among the blind. To this the Lord replied, “If you were the blind, you would have no sin, but now you say `We see’; therefore your sin remains” (John 9:41).

This story of the Lord’s miracle of giving sight to the man born blind is dramatic and deeply touching. We sense in it the joy and wonder of the man who received sight after so many years of utter darkness. We are warmed by the compassion and mercy which the Lord showed toward the blind man. We are amazed, astonished and dumfounded by the hostility and antagonism which the Pharisees exhibited toward the man who had been blind and his benefactor, and by their fanatical desire to discredit Him. Instead of rejoicing at this man’s good fortune, and marvelling at this wonderful miracle, they rebuked and persecuted the man and his family, and finally expelled him from the synagogue.

Dramatic as this story may be, and wonderful as the miracle was in itself, this story is not mere history. It is not an event done and finished. The miracle of giving sight to the blind is one which the Lord is continually effecting with all people who genuinely desire it. Remarkable as all the Lord’s miracles were in themselves, they were not the fulfillment of His mission on earth. Because the Lord is infinite, everything He did while on earth looked to spiritual and eternal ends. The Lord did not come on earth to heal people’s bodies. The body lives for only a few short years and then it is discarded, like clothing that has served its use. He came to heal the spirits of people their minds, which live on in the spiritual world when the body has been put off. All the miracles which the Lord performed were ultimate representations of spiritual things things that pertain to the hearts and minds of people (see AE 475:19).

All the diseases which the Lord healed while on earth have their spiritual correspondents (see AE 815:5). The man born blind whom the Lord healed represents all those people who are ignorant of Divine truth, and who, through a genuine desire to know the truth, are enlightened by the Lord at His coming.

We would recall here our lesson from Isaiah. We read there of a closed book that none could understand, neither the learned nor the simple. This book was the Word. The Jews, through their refusal to obey the Lord’s precepts, closed their understanding to the truth revealed by the Lord in His Word. Thus the book was closed to them; and because it was closed to the leaders and teachers of the Jews the learned they closed it to the simple who depended on them for instruction from the Word. Instead of teaching genuine truths from the Word they taught man-made precepts: “their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13). They “make a man an offender by a word … and turn aside the just for a thing of naught” (Isaiah 29:21).

Because of this situation the Lord prophesied that He would do a marvelous work when He came on earth. “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the Book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness … Those also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who murmured will learn doctrine” (Isaiah 29:18, 24).

Here we see described one of the purposes of the Lord’s coming: to open the understanding of people their spiritual sight so that they could see Divine truths in the Word. He came to open the closed “Book” so that people could learn doctrine from it doctrine applicable to life Divine doctrine, not man-made doctrine, the precepts of men which turn aside a person for a thing of naught. This is the interior meaning of the miracle which the Lord performed for the man born blind. And the means by which He healed the man describe the means by which He may open the interior understanding of each individual, and impart to him a genuine rational faith.

The clay which the Lord used to anoint the man’s eyes represents good the good affections which a person has acquired by a life according to truth (see AC 6669:6). After anointing the man’s eyes, He told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. This represents a cleansing by repentance from what is evil and false, for all the ceremonial washings of the Jews represented repentance, as did the baptism of John in the fords of the river Jordan.

The Lord healed the blind man on the Sabbath day a thing which caused the Pharisees to condemn Him. When the Lord came on earth the Sabbath day took on a new meaning. The representatives of the Jewish Church were abolished, and the Sabbath became a day for instruction and meditation on spiritual things and for the worship of God. The Lord, in this and many other instances, healed people on the Sabbath because people are cured of their spiritual diseases by instruction from the Word, meditation upon its teachings, and the resulting internal worship of the Lord (see TCR 301). All this is represented by the Sabbath day.

We would also note the fact that when the Pharisees asked the man what he thought of the Man who healed him, he said he thought Him a prophet. By prophets in the Word are meant those who teach truths which lead to the good of life, thus, in an abstract sense, the truths of doctrine themselves. The Lord was therefore frequently called a “prophet” because He was the Divine truth itself. In this particular instance He is called a “prophet” to signify that spiritual blindness ignorance of spiritual truth is healed by genuine truths of doctrine from the Word (see AE 624:18, 23). We read in the Apocalypse Explained: “The faith by which spiritual diseases are healed by the Lord can be given only through truths from the Word and a life according to them” (AE 815:5).

We would draw your attention to the fact that the man first acknowledged the Lord as a prophet. Later, after he had been expelled from the synagogue by the Pharisees, the Lord asked if he believed in the Son of God. The man asked: “Who is He, Lord, that I might believe in Him?” The Lord replied, “It is He who is talking with you.” The man then said, “`Lord I believe,’ and he worshipped Him” (John 9:35-38).

We see here the natural progression of the faith of a person whose understanding has been opened who was been given spiritual sight. When the understanding is first opened, the person acknowledges that it is truth which has given sight to the understanding. But after the person has lived the new truth which he sees, when he becomes a disciple of the truth the prophet’s disciple a judgment is produced. He cannot remain any longer in the former church; he is expelled from the synagogue, for he no longer adheres to their man-made precepts. Then it is that he is asked if he acknowledges the Son of God the Lord in His Divine Human revealed anew to mankind. And by further questioning and study of the newly revealed truth the person is led to make the final acknowledgment, that this same truth which opened the understanding is the Lord Himself in His advent (see AC 2628).

This miracle represents the fulfillment of one of the Lord’s purposes in coming on earth. He prophesied in Isaiah that He would come to open the human understanding so that people could see the inner contents of the “Book” which was closed by their spiritual blindness. He was going to teach them doctrine so that they would cease to err. He proclaimed again this purpose immediately before and after He had healed the blind man, saying, “I am the light of the world … For judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and those who see may be blind” (John 9:5,39). Those who think they see are blinded, because they see from self-intellegence rather than from the Lord who is the “light of the world” their self-illumined understanding in an illusory light. They see what is false as the truth, and what is true they see as false. They close their eyes against the genuine light of Divine truth.

The purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming is the same as that of the First Coming. In the book of Revelation we read of a “Book” sealed with seven seals, which nobody was worthy to open except the Lord Himself. This was a prophecy of how, in the Christian Church, the Word would again become a closed Book a book no longer understood by the learned or the simple, a book which only the Lord Himself could open in His Second Advent. And it is opened! The spiritual meaning of the Word is now revealed! It gives spiritual understanding spiritual sight to those who receive and acknowledge it.

We see in this story of the healing of the blind man that the Word is not just an historical record of the Israelites, of the Lord’s life on earth and the wonders He performed during the three short years of His ministry. We see that the Word contains within it living truth which can heal our spiritual blindness and cleanse our minds and hearts from what is false and evil. In the revelation of His Second Advent the Lord has opened the Book that was closed. He has revealed Himself anew so that those who err in spirit may come to understanding, and those who murmur may learn true doctrine.

May the Lord, through His open Word, heal us who have been born in ignorance. As we apply these revealed truths to our lives, and repent of our sins, may our understandings be opened so that we come seeing. And when the Pharisee within us raises doubts as to the origin of our new light, may we be led to acknowledge, as did the man born blind, that only the Lord Himself can open the interior sight of our minds and illumine their darkness, so that we may say of the truth when it is presented to our minds, “Lord, I believe.” Amen.

Lessons: Isaiah 29:9-24, John 9

CRYING OUT THE MORE

CRYING OUT THE MORE

A Sermon by Rev Frederick M ChapinNovember 6, 1994

Ā 

And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!’ Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!’ (Mt 20:30 & 31)

Everyone is created to be wise. All of us have the capabilities to be a wise person. Being wise goes far deeper than having an abundance of knowledge of certain subjects. A practice of study and an accumulation of knowledges or facts do have a proper role in becoming a wise person. But the Writings of the New Church go far deeper than obtaining knowledges to become wise. It is what we do with those knowledges, and how we apply them in life that determines if we are wise. The Writings are straightforward that humility must be present if there is to be wisdom. When there is the simple willingness and desire to be led by the Lord along with the knowledge of how we should live, we are wise.

One way we can regard wisdom is having a clear picture of what we want to accomplish in life. It is having a true and clear picture of what we want in life. Being wise does not necessarily remove all doubts or questions. Despite the questions and the uncertainties, we can still have a clear sight of what we would like to do in life. And we are wise if this clear vision is such that it honors and glorifies the Lord and gives benefits towards others. Being wise is not exclusively in obtaining knowledges. It is being humble whereby we can consistently have a firmer conviction that all good comes from the Lord, and not from ourselves. This confession is the basis of all genuine wisdom. (Ref)

Nevertheless, there are times that we will enter into states of ignorance. In certain ways, ignorance can be a positive or helpful state for us to go through. It can protect us from doing spiritual harm to the truths that are from the Lord, and it can also encourage us and make it easier for us to confess that all good is from the Lord. Ignorance, when used properly, can prevent us from believing that we know from ourselves what is good and true. Ignorance can be helpful in not fixing ourselves in a state of self-intelligence. Self-intelligence is the main barrier that can prevent us from being in a state of true wisdom. And when we are let into times of confusion or obscurity of how to accomplish our ideals in life, we can be in a stronger recognition that we are dependant upon the Lord to provide us with the life that can manifest the spiritual principles that are revealed in the Lord’s Word. Simply put, we can not be wise without going through times of ignorance. Even the angels in heaven are let into states of obscurity from time because they too are susceptible in believing the love they have and the wisdom they are in are from themselves. There is a certain ignorance in wisdom in that we sincerely recognize and confess that from ourselves, spiritual wisdom would be impossible to achieve.

Specifically, the Writings speak of three causes of ignorance. The first is a blatant life of selfishness. The life that is only concerned with one’s self interest will be in total ignorance regarding spiritual life. Sadly, such a person does not concern himself or herself with their ignorance. They just want to drift alone with the type of life that they are living. This cause of ignorance is deliberate and formed by choice of a person who disregards the consequences upon others.

Second is an innocent cause of ignorance that actually can still lead to good. This is spoken of specifically with those who do not have the Word or have never heard of the Lord. The Gentiles are not at fault, nor did they make an actual choice to reject the Lord and a life according to His commandments. The Writings assure us that if they live according to what they regard as true as sincerely as they can, the Lord can lead them to heaven when they enter the spiritual world. In fact, the Writings state that despite the fallacies that they believe to be true, the Lord can bend these fallacies towards good. This is because they still want to do what is right and good. This desire will allow the Lord to be conjoined with them and bring out the maximum good that their beliefs can produce.

The third cause is between the deliberate rejection of the Lord with those who are only concerned about themselves, and the good of those who are good despite the fallacies they believe to be true because they never heard of the Lord or the Word. This ignorance is the result of putting external things above internal things. Such a person can know the truths but they are only in the memory, not in his or her life. Such a person puts so much attention upon enjoying worldly things that he or she lose sight of spiritual things and how they can effect life. As a result, they do not know truth in life, only intellectually. They do now know the true impact or relevance of truth by not living according to it fully in their lives.

This is why the belief that if we just confess that the Lord died on the cross we are saved, regardless of what we may do or the type of life we may live is so dangerous. This type of belief makes living or focusing strictly on externals very enticing. This belief does not encourage one to concentrate on internal loves and thoughts. It creates a very strong tendency to put externals over internals.

When external things dominate our lives, the light from heaven is not received in as openly or fully. The Writings explain that the truths that we do know are known only in generalities. We only have an obscure understanding of their relevance in our lives. They are like a person who only knows the general and basic rules of a game or sport. As long as only there is only a basic understanding about the game, it will not be as stimulating until the sport is known in greater detail. Such is the understanding of truth. It will not be fully appreciated so long as we have an obscure understanding of their impact in our lives. Only when we have a dedication to fully submit ourselves to the Lord’s commandments will we have a deeper appreciation of their importance and power in our lives. Along with this deeper appreciation will come a greater insight and clarity of how we are to live that will truly bring honor to the Lord and perform meaningful uses towards those we come in contact with.

We can emerge from a state of ignorance to a state of wisdom. The crucial step is to sincerely confess that all good comes from the Lord and that there be a dedication to obey His commandments in all aspects of our lives. The emergence from a state of ignorance is treated of by the story of two blind men at the road to Jericho. The blind men cried to the Lord to heal them of their blindness when they heard that the Lord was passing by them. The crowd around them told them to be quiet. But the response of the blind men was that they cried the more, they became louder. The Lord stopped and touched their eyes, whereby they could see.

The crowd around the blind men pictures the world’s philosophy and trends which entice us to be quiet and remain in our blindness. It tries to tell us that we should not concern ourselves with spiritual matters. Why should we be concerned about the quality of our relationship with the Lord? Why should we be concerned about the impact our actions and words will have upon others? We are just to live from day to day, not fully knowing where we are or what direction our lives are heading. So long as we are in ignorance, which blindness represents, the world will have control or power over us.

Strangely enough, there will be something in us that wants to remain in ignorance. So long as we do not know an alternative to external delights, we can enjoy them. Why bother in having a clearer light that comes from heaven that can effect our lives? Just remain in the life we are living now and do not do anything that could make such a life no longer pleasant. Our proprial desires will be enticed to follow such a philosophy of life. It will not bother us that we are under control of others and not truly free. We are heavily concerned if we are living in the current trends of worldly behavior and standards. But we accept being under their control, for we can enjoy sensual delights.

In history, the Church prevented the laity from reading the Word by reading the Word in Latin, which only the priests could understand. Yet, most of the laity did not mind being completely dependant upon others for direction. By being in ignorance, they could indulge and find an excuse to remain a life of sensual pleasures.

One way that many throughout history have combated influences from the world is to separate themselves from it. They believe that a life that is in total isolation from worldly thought and life will make them pure. The Writings teach that this is not a proper approach. Instead of having purer and more humble thoughts and attitudes, the opposite occurs. They feel superior towards others and feel more deserving of rewards in heaven for their sacrifice upon the earth.

We are not to remove ourselves from a life in the world to combat worldly tendencies and enticements. Instead, we are to do what the blind men did, cry out the more. We are to have a greater and stronger commitment to compliance with the Lord’s Word. This even stronger commitment will overcome the noise that the world will direct to us, whereby the Lord may touch the eyes of our understanding and give us sight of a clear knowledge of how we are to live and what we can offer to the Lord’s creation.